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'Most serious exercise of the power': Gov. Hobbs won't proceed with Aaron Gunches execution

After the court issued a warrant to execute Aaron Gunches, the governor released a statement indicating the state won't move ahead with executing him.

PHOENIX — Gov. Katie Hobbs said Friday her administration won't proceed with executing a convicted murderer after the Arizona Supreme Court scheduled a date for the man's lethal injection.

The case of Aaron Gunches, who was put on death row for killing a man in 2002, has taken many turns over the last year. 

Gunches initially tried speeding up his execution to bring solace to the victim's family. He then backtracked his wishes after Democrat Kris Mayes narrowly won the attorney general's race.

Mayes tried to withdraw her predecessor's request to execute Gunches, only to have that request denied by the courts. A warrant to execute Gunches was signed by the court this week. 

Now the governor seems to have no interest in doing anything with the court's warrant execution, which scheduled Gunches' execution for April 6.

"The Court’s decision order and warrant make clear, however, that the warrant authorizes an execution and does not require it," Hobbs said. "This is consistent with the law and separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches on this most serious exercise of the power of the State."

Hobbs further stated that "an execution will not occur until the people of Arizona can have confidence that the State is not violating the law in carrying out the gravest of penalties."

The governor has appointed retired Judge David Duncan to conduct an independent review of Arizona's capital punishment procedures.

Hobbs said the new director in charge of overseeing the Department of Corrections will be tasked with ensuring the state is prepared to carry out an execution.

"Director (Ryan) Thornell will continue to build up ADCRR’s staffing and competencies to be able to conduct an execution in compliance with state and federal laws," the governor added.

Starting in 2014, Arizona took an 8-year hiatus from putting inmates to death after the botched execution of Joseph Wood.

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